Ryan Lee

Ryan Lee: The other side of #metoo

I don’t fully understand trigger warnings and have therefore usually mocked them, but I feel the need to state upfront that this column addresses childhood rape, and is written from the perspective of the childhood rapist. It is a memory too shameful for me to have ever discussed with family or my dearest friends, and I worry that sharing the experience could turn my guilt into pain for someone who endured the type of trauma I inflicted.

The viral testimony of women admitting they too have been victims of sexual harassment and assault have inspired many men to respond that they’re listening. But as more and more voices joined the #metoo campaign, as it became undeniable that sexual assault covers every acre of our land, it almost started to feel as if these women had been violated by ghosts or boogeymen.

Where are the men who have made rape and harassment as much a female rite as menstruation and unequal pay? They are in your home, at your office, among your friends and in your LGBT newspaper.

I am sorry. Almost 30 years later, the disgust I feel about myself and my actions have never abated, and I rarely have the courage to wonder about that little girl’s life after I assaulted her, or that woman’s life today.

The girl lived across the street from us, and like me was 8 or 9 years old, but adored my older sister. I saw her when I was getting off the school bus one day, and told her my sister was looking for her.

I didn’t have to lie to her to get her to come to our apartment, which I knew was empty because my sister stayed after school. We were friends, and she had no reason to expect that once we were inside, she would be prevented from leaving, stripped naked, violated physically and sexually, and have her flesh covered in hickeys and bruises.

When the girl and her irate mother arrived at our apartment that evening with a police officer, my mother and stepfather were indignant at the accusations against me, while I collapsed in tears. I lied, of course, and attributed the marks on the girl’s body to horseplay, or a consensual fight, or anything I could think of other than the truth.

“I don’t think he did it, otherwise he wouldn’t be so emotional,” I recall my mother saying, giving me the first and only sense of hope as the investigation continued. I cannot lose my mother, I understood; she is the only person keeping me out of jail.

Eventually, my tears and my mother’s faith were enough for the officer to simply issue some type of warning. A few weeks later, I subjected the girl to an almost identical torture, but that time no police were called, my parents took the second round of allegations as further proof that the first had been bogus, and the young girl was whupped and grounded for returning to our apartment.

She and her family moved to a different neighborhood shortly afterward, and I have not seen her since, nor discussed the episodes in any capacity. There was never a follow-up conversation from my parents to make sure I was not a rapist, or would not grow up to be one.

I do not mean to flaunt how I evaded punishment, or blame others for not ensuring justice. It hurts knowing such viciousness is within me, and that it was so easy for me to burden a young girl’s life and future.

I am sorry. I regret those days forever.